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Designing Efficient College and Tax Policies

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  • Sebastian Findeisen
  • Dominik Sachs

Abstract

The total social benefits of college education exceed the private benefits because the government receives a share of the monetary returns in the form of income taxes. We study the policy implications of this fiscal externality in an optimal dynamic tax framework. Using a variational approach we derive a formula for the revenue effect of an increase in college education subsidies and for the excess burden of income taxation caused by the college margin. We also show how the optimal nonlinear income tax problem is altered by the college margin. Our modeling assumptions are strongly guided by the recent structural labor literature on college education. The model incorporates multidimensional heterogeneity, idiosyncratic risk and borrowing constraints. The model matches key empirical results on college enrollment patterns, returns to education and enrollment elasticities. Quantitatively, we find that a marginal increase in college subsidies in the US is at least 70 percent self-financing through the net-present value increase in future tax revenue. When targeting this increase to children in the lowest parental income tercile, it is even up to 165 percent self-financing. The excess burden of income taxation is only slightly altered by the college margin and therefore the optimal Mirrleesian income tax schedule is barely affected as well, in particular if subsidies are set at their optimal level.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Findeisen & Dominik Sachs, 2015. "Designing Efficient College and Tax Policies," CESifo Working Paper Series 5435, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5435
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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Colas & Sebastian Findeisen & Dominik Sachs, 2021. "Optimal Need-Based Financial Aid," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 129(2), pages 492-533.
    2. Krueger, Dirk & Ludwig, Alexander, 2016. "On the optimal provision of social insurance: Progressive taxation versus education subsidies in general equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 72-98.
    3. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2017. "Redistribution and insurance with simple tax instruments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 58-78.
    4. Lance Lochner & Alexander Monge-Naranjo, 2014. "Student Loans and Repayment: Theory, Evidence and Policy," Working Papers 2014-40, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    5. Fabio Cerina & Alessio Moro & Michelle Rendall, 2021. "The Role Of Gender In Employment Polarization," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 62(4), pages 1655-1691, November.
    6. Wolfram F. Richter & Kerstin Schneider, 2021. "Education: Optimal choice and efficient policy," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 54(2), pages 840-863, May.
    7. Geppert, Christian, 2015. "On the Distributional Implications of Demographic Change," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113070, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. Brant Abbott & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir & Giovanni L. Violante, 2019. "Education Policy and Intergenerational Transfers in Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 127(6), pages 2569-2624.
    9. Krueger, Dirk & Ludwig, Alexander, 2013. "On the Optimal Provision of Social Insurance," MEA discussion paper series 201302, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    10. Brant Abbott & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir & Giovanni L. Violante, 2013. "Education Policy�and Intergenerational Transfers in Equilibrium," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1887, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    11. Bierbrauer Felix J., 2016. "Effizienz oder Gerechtigkeit?," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 17(1), pages 2-24, April.
    12. Felix Bierbrauer, 2016. "Effizienz oder Gerechtigkeit? Ungleiche Einkommen, ungleiche Vermögen und die Theorie der optimalen Besteuerung," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2016_03, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    optimal taxation; college subsidies; college enrollment; tax reforms;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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